Scott Kirsner just informed me that videos of many of the panels at “The Conversation,” held at Columbia University back in March, are now available on line. Below is the video of my apparently controversial opening remarks, which many people interpreted as dashing the hopes and dreams of aspiring filmmmakers everywhere. But listen carefully to what I’m saying. It’s about pragmatism, not pessimism.
It seems that my kickoff speech at “The Conversation” had at least one comment that seems to be causing some distress. I said (quoting a business school professor) that “film has never been a business…it’s a hobby.” Let me clarify why I brought this up, and perhaps it will ease some of your minds.
First, I WAS QUOTING SOMEONE ELSE. As much as I don’t mind being provocative, this was the point of view of a third party, who was not judging the individuals in the room, but was making an observation that the creation of content has never been a good, consistent business…a hard concept to argue with.
My point in bringing it up was that as much as my entire life has been a quest for a business model that reconciles my urge to promote quality work with a need to make money, that goal has been nothing if not elusive. The biggest challenge we face as filmmakers and marketers is sustainability.
I also made another point, which is that success can only be measured relative to what you really want. The majority of serious filmmakers that I know are making films for reasons other than making money. They are expressing themselves through their art, or making a political point, or both. Does that constitute a hobby? Perhaps that’s too pointed a word. Some people have complained that it makes it seem frivolous. Again, it wasn’t my word.
Listening throughout the day to the various panels and speakers, I don’t see a clear through line to some new dawn. I see a lot of cross-currents that make me feel that such conversations are important, as much for batting around new ideas as for some kind of reality check.
The following is the outline of the kickoff speech I gave at “The Conversation,” a conference on the future of independent film at Columbia University. Sorry that it’s missing the adlibs…maybe someone taped it.
On behalf of the Columbia University School of the Arts and the Columbia Business School, I’d like to welcome you all to our campus. If you haven’t been here before, I’m sure you are a bit shocked to see that a place like this exists right in the middle of Manhattan. It’s a great place to live and to learn. I want to thank Daisy Nam at the School of the Arts and Hollis O’Rourke at the Business School for making this day possible.
When Scott Kirshner put the word out that he wanted to find a place in New York to hold this event, I told him right away that I wanted to bring it to Columbia. The reasons why are a bit complicated, but I thought they might be a good starting point for the discussion that will be going on all day. Continue reading “Kicking off the Conversation”